An open letter to Ernie Els

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Dear Ernie

It has been a week now since the 2016 US Masters and the fateful events of the 1st hole on Thursday and I feel compelled to write to you.

I want to let you know that you are a hero and true professional sportsman in every sense of the word, in performance and behaviour. The way that you handled yourself over the next 35 holes was an example to all who play the game, fellow professionals, aspiring youngsters and weekend golfers alike. Come to think of it, this is the way you have handled yourself throughout your entire career, through the ups and downs that are inevitable in the professional game.

However, it is when we are most tested that our true character reveals itself. You can hold your head up high and be very proud of yourself, as all here in South Africa are proud of you, as well as millions of golf fans around the world. Reminiscent of Greg Norman 20 years previous, your dignity was exemplary. The honesty with which you fronted up to the media after the round is also indicative of your character and all of this says far more about you than anything you’ve achieved on the golf course.

You are universally respected, admired and loved around the world for your openness, your sense of humour and the way you’ve handled yourself throughout your career. You are a hero and legend in South Africa in particular. You have inspired thousands of youngsters to take up golf, and every generation of young South African juniors holds you as the standard to aspire to. You personally mentored so many of the South African professionals who have come after you, and you still continue to do so. The contribution you have made through your foundation is, I believe, unmatched amongst tour players around the world. The contribution you and your family are making with Els for Autism is greater still.


I discourage you from looking for the answer in technique. Your technique has been admired by players and coaches alike, in every aspect of the game including putting. The “heebie-jeebies” as you call it is not caused by technique and probably won’t be conquered or managed by technique either.

If I had the opportunity to help you with your game, I’d tell you that all of the answers already lie inside of you. You’ve holed so many putts over the years under the most intense of pressure. You’ve holed crucial putts to win majors. That was you. You’ve holed countless other pressure putts in your incredible career of tournament wins around the world. That was you. That putt you holed in the darkness at Fancourt in the Presidents Cup playoff was immense. That was you. Your short game has been so good over the years partly because you have been such a great putter. You are a great putter.

You need to let go of fear. You still love the competition, so enjoy the challenge. You are allowed and entitled to miss some putts. That’s golf and life, mistakes and failures are inevitable and necessary. Give yourself a break. You’ve done it all. You have nothing to prove. If anyone has earned the right to play with freedom it is you. So go enjoy yourself again.


Yours Sincerely,


Michael Balderstone

PGA Professional

Performance Director

The Golf School of Excellence